FULTON, Ill. — A Fulton landmark is left in rubble and ash after a fire tore through it Friday.
View a slideshow of photos from the fire here: http://www.clintonherald.com/slideshow-schafer-fisheries-fire/collection_93e03da4-eab5-11e4-af14-8329d901ab07.html
Schafer Fisheries caught fire around 11:40 a.m., burning for around 40 minutes and leaving the 60-year-old business a "total loss." When the fire broke out, Garrett Robb, employee of three years, attempted to calm the flames with water before heading for the fire extinguisher.
His efforts proved futile, though, after the fire strengthened and the smoke became too much for him, at which time he and the two other employees evacuated the building, unharmed.
"I tried to stop it but the smoke pushed me out before I could really do anything," Robb said.
From there Robb proceeded to call for assistance from the Fulton Fire Department, which arrived on scene approximately 10 minutes later.
Using the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, Fulton Fire Chief Ted James expanded the call to several surrounding fire departments including Clinton, Thomson, Illinois, Camanche and Albany, Illinois.
Once on scene, the departments quickly went to work to extinguish the flames, but the efforts were not enough.
"We came on scene and the building was fully engulfed; flames were shooting out of the doors and windows," James said. "It took us about 40 minutes to get the fire under control but it appears to be a total loss."
Preliminary investigation points to the fire's cause as a fish smoker that became too hot, subsequently igniting plastic sheeting nearby.
Second-generation Schafer Fisheries owner Mike Schafer arrived shortly after the building caught fire, and was in disbelief with what he saw.
"I got here about 10 minutes before the fire department and the building was fully in flames," Schafer said. "My retail gal said she had to jump the counter to get out because it was moving that fast."
The loss of merchandise, equipment and the building itself is painful enough for Schafer, but as he stood in front of his livelihood watching the smoldering remains collapse, it wasn't the stuff inside that made it difficult to witness.
"This building was built in 1955 when my dad started the business. There are a lot of memories here," Schafer said. "It's hard to look at."
Robb felt the pain as well, looking back on his three years with the business.
"I don't know what's going to happen now," Robb said.
The Fulton and Thomson fire departments will collaborate to investigate the cause of the fire, calling in assistance from the fire marshal to ensure wrongdoing is not at play. From the initial investigation, James said he didn't believe that would be the case.
In addition to the Fulton, Thomson, Clinton, Camanche and Albany fire departments' assistance, departments from Sabula and the Illinois towns of Morrison, Cordova, Savanna and Chadwick were dispatched to the call.
Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.